Watts Bar Project Manager Who Was Fired Had Sent Large Sums To Iran

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant project manager who was recently fired by TVA sent large sums of money to his native Iran, according to documents in his divorce case.

TVA officials have not said why Masoud Bajestani was dismissed - only that it was not related to his job performance.

Bajestani had been in charge of leading the country's largest nuclear project after earlier completing a similar project at the Brown's Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala.

According to the divorce case, Bajestani withdrew $1.5 million from a TVA deferred compensation account. He admitted during the divorce case that he was not truthful when he gave as the reason for the withdrawal that he had a financial hardship.

He said he had to pay taxes on the early withdrawal and received a net amount of $975,000.

The native of Iran said that the money was losing its value in the TVA account and he decided to buy some property with it in Tehran, Iran.

Bajestani said he could not send the money directly to Iran from the U.S., so he funneled $600,000 of it through a bank in Canada.

He said the money went to his brother-in-law. He said the money has not yet been invested because he did not fulfill his commitment to send over $1 million.

Testimony in the divorce was that Bajestani had made other early withdrawals from the TVA account in the amounts of $37,000, $194,000 and $85,000, among others.

Bajestani was married for seven years to Maryam Ghorashi, also a native of Iran and an engineer. They had two children together. Bajestani was married previously.

Bajestani has been in the U.S. since 1975 and a U.S. citizen since 1982.

In the divorce, Bajestani described his job stating: “I’m the vice president for Watts Bar Unit 2 project. It’s a new nuclear plant that’s being built and this is going to be the first new plant after 20 years that is going to come online in the United States.”

Bajestani signed a contract for his current job in October of 2007. He stated: “The contract is for five years and one year after the plant comes online. So it’s for a total of six years. The contract that is written, it actually says that when the plant comes online and runs for some period of time reliably and safely, then there are some incentives. So if you add everything, it’s a six-year contract, essentially.”

In 2006, Bajestani had income of approximately $594,000. He testified that his base salary in 2006 was approximately $240,000, and that the remaining amount consisted of bonuses. His wages including bonuses for 2007 were approximately $599,000. However, in 2007 he declared approximately $2,293,000 in taxable income because of withdrawing the $1.5 million out of his TVA deferred compensation account in 2007.

Bajestani said, “Deferred compensation, this is a contract that was put in place, essentially what they call it is the golden handcuff, to essentially to get you to stay for the duration of the whole project. But you have to meet certain requirements to be able to get the money that’s in this contract. Specifically, budget, schedule, that if you miss - and the safe and reliable operation of the unit after it comes online. And if you miss any of this, essentially, you won’t
get this deferred compensation.

“That bonus is based on performance of the project, performance of the certain milestones that you are to meet, budget, schedule and TVA’s overall performance.”

He said for 2008, “TVA overall performance has not been good because of various issues that we have had this year, drought. The performance of the fossil units and nuclear units hasn’t been good, so we missed a lot of milestones.”

Concerning the $1.5 million withdrawal, he said, "The reason I withdrew that money was because this money, the deferred compensation money, is actually in the market, you know, invested in the market. So I looked at the market and the market wasn’t going to go anywhere; actually it was losing its value, the dollar was losing its value, and I had this opportunity that I discussed with (wife) to invest some money outside the U.S. and specifically buy some property back in Tehran, Iran. So I decided to withdraw that money and invest it outside the U.S."

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